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Foreign Ministry spokesman Delavekouras’s interview on Flash FM, with journalists A. Spanou and K. Parras
Journalist: We have Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras with us. Good day, Mr. Delavekouras.
Journalist: Good morning and thank you, because I heard you’ve just arrived.
Mr. Delavekouras: Yes, I’m still at the airport, so you may hear an announcement or two.
Journalist: What is the diplomatic conclusion from the Prime Minister’s visit yesterday to the depths of Anatolia?
Mr. Delavekouras: First of all, let me set out the framework. The Prime Minister’s visit was never characterized as a summit meeting that would resolve all the problems.
Because various things had been heard in both Turkey and Greece regarding the announcement of agreements on peace or co-exploitation and various other things, we need to say that the Prime Minister’s acceptance of Mr. Erdogan’s invitation to speak at the Ambassadors’ Conference and, with him, to inaugurate the facilities of the university winter games, was a strongly symbolic move.
But the Prime Minister used this opportunity to give substance and content, as well, and, addressing the backbone of Turkish diplomacy, he made a strong demarche regarding the unacceptable practice of flyovers. He set out in a clear manner Greece’s vision for Greek-Turkish rapprochement, also setting strict prerequisites for the feasibility of this rapprochement.
One by one, he set out each obstacle standing in the way of Greek-Turkish rapprochement, and most importantly, I think, he set out a clear choice between peace and conflict, and said clearly that Greece wants peace and Mr. Erdogan says the same thing, and I think this is the most important thing.
Journalist: But the impression was created by the fact that a three-hour meeting took place – the greater part of which involved just the two leaders, without the presence of third parties – so one surmises that there are things in the background of the picture that aren’t visible in the foreground.
Mr. Delavekouras: It is precisely this channel of communication that is important so that we can have progress – so that we can have this understanding.
This communication is vital because it is the only way they can set out their viewss, listen to each other’s views and understand one another.
What we are looking for is common ground. We know that there are serious problems and that we have to resolve them – it is too our benefit. The option of not talking is always on the table, but it does not serve Greece’s long-term interests.
Journalist: Mr. Delavekouras, I must point out that we have two things that are unprecedented: I think this is the first time a Greek Prime Minister has been invited for talks in the framework of a domestic process like the Conference of Turkish Diplomats.
And I think this is the first time a Greek Prime Minister has told it like it is, not in a press conference or here in Greece, but in the opponents home court. This was commented on extensively and positively yesterday: that George Papandreou did not mince his words. The things he said were obvious, but he said them.
Mr. Delavekouras: Exactly. The Greek Prime Minister set out longstanding Greek positions, and that is what we have to keep in mind. When Greek talks to Turkey, it does so within a framework. Our principles, positions and interests are clear, defined and longstanding, and Greek diplomacy and the Foreign Ministry serve these positions.
Journalist: Now, beyond that, Mr. Spokesman, there is the private meeting, and I am of course not naïve enough to believe that you would answer a question from me, on a radio show, regarding what the two men discussed during their long face-to-face conversation. But I have to ask.
Mr. Delavekouras: Of course I can tell you what they discussed. The issues they discussed are well known, they mentioned them in the press conference, and I had the opportunity to brief the correspondents yesterday, as well.
They discussed very important issues in Greek-Turkish relations, including illegal migration, which has been at the top of the agenda of the Prime Ministers’ recent meetings, because it is a common problem that needs to be confronted jointly with the European Union.
The Greek-Turkish High-level Cooperation Council is an area of cooperation that is opening the way for us to be able to move towards the future. We had Mr. Erdogan’s visit in May, with very significant results, and in July we will have the reciprocal Council in Turkey. Mr. Davutoglu will be coming to Athens in March, we have important regional cooperation issues, including the floods along the Evros.
Journalist: I’m not belittling the nature of everything you mentioned – it’s important, I agree with you.
But, as you can see, our listeners, as well, wonder whether certain issues were touched upon by the two men.
For instance, the Greek Prime Minister clearly raised the issue of flyovers; he set it out earlier, without fear and dispassionately, before a difficult audience. Did he raise this issue during the one-on-one talks? And it would be worth hearing – if you know – what the Turkish Prime Minister’s reply was.
Mr. Delavekouras: Precisely what I said before: All the issues were touched upon.
What we are saying is that we need sincerity in our relations, and this means that we have to speak frankly. There is conduct on the part of Turkey that undermines the effort toward Greek-Turkish rapprochement.
And at the same time, these practices – of flyovers, for instance – carry the risk of an accident or even a hostile incident, but they also raise questions as to the real will or even the ability of Turkey to move ahead with Greek-Turkish rapprochement.
That is exactly why all of these issues were raised, and what we want to reach is a point where these things won’t exist, because we believe that Greek-Turkish relations really have a dynamic and can serve the interests of both peoples.
Journalist: How easy is it for us to get a result on just one of the issues dividing the countries within a timeframe regarding which some, including New Democracy, insert a footnote, saying you can’t negotiate when you are in a weak position from the crisis; that this is not good timing for negotiations. Do you agree with this, or how do you reply to these assertions?
Mr. Delavekouras: As you can see, I cannot go into a discussion of the domestic political debate taking place between the parties in Greece. But what I can say is that Greece has, first of all, very strong positions, and no one has linked the economic issues with the exercising of our country’s foreign policy.
Precisely because we have such strong positions, we have no reason not to pursue communication and initiatives for resolving the issues. Inertia is not a choice for us. We have many challenges ahead of us, and that is exactly why we need to take initiatives and have dynamic diplomacy.
Journalist: Right, Mr. Delavekouras, thank you very much.
Mr. Delavekouras: I thank you. Take care.
Journalist: Good day.
Mr. Delavekouras: Good day.